Retired 'Voice of the Seminoles' Gene Deckerhoff still has a lot to say

Carter Karels
Tallahassee Democrat

Mixed between the stories he told at a luncheon inside the Tucker Civic Center, Gene Deckerhoff impersonated some of his favorite calls as the longtime voice of Florida State athletics.

Retiring from his FSU duties last month didn’t keep Deckerhoff — the guest speaker at the event held by the Tiger Bay Club last Thursday — from treating those calls as if they were live. He sounded as enthusiastic as ever.

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“It’s third down and 10 at the Seminole 21-yard line,” Deckerhoff said. “Florida State leading the Gators by just six. Charlie Ward in the shotgun takes the snap. He rolls to his right. He throws. It’s caught by Dunn. Down at the 30. Down to the 40. Down to the 50. Warrick Dunn down the sideline. To the 20. He separates. Ten. Three. Two. One. Touchdown Florida State. Touchdown Warrick Dunn.”

That 79-yard touchdown against Florida happened in 1993. Deckerhoff also recited his calls from LeRoy Butler’s “Puntrooskie” play in 1988, the 1993 National Championship Game and the “Choke at Doak” game in 1994.

All of them were unprompted.

“People ask me, ‘What are your favorite calls?’ I do have a top 10 list, and that is right up there at No. 3,” said Deckerhoff of the Dunn touchdown call. “Anything involving Heisman Trophy winner Charlie Ward and Warrick Dunn has to be in your top five. Top three. The ‘Puntrooskie’ is there at No. 2. And then the catch by Kelvin Benjamin to win the national championship in 2013, that’s No. 1 right now.”

Deckerhoff’s photographic memory with his calls also showed in how vividly he recounted several stories during the luncheon. The 77-year-old had quite a few entertaining anecdotes to share from his 43 years as FSU’s play-by-play radio announcer.

Below are some of the best ones.

Deckerhoff bought Bobby Bowden’s previous house

The majority of Deckerhoff’s stories involved Bobby Bowden, the legendary former FSU football coach with whom he grew close. 

“How blessed were we to have spent 34 years with Bobby Bowden as our head coach at FSU? … Not only was he a great coach – in my opinion, the greatest to ever coach football, college football or pro – but he was a great human being,” Deckerhoff said.

The two forged a connection even before the Seminoles named Bowden their head coach in 1976. Deckerhoff said that in November of 1974, he unwittingly moved into the same house Bowden owned while previously serving as an assistant coach at FSU.

“Our next-door neighbor was a West Virginia graduate with a Ph.D. in music. A professor at Florida State,” Deckerhoff said. “We had met each other, and he said, ‘Gene, you know who used to own this house that you are living in right now?’ And I said, ‘No.’ He said, ‘He was a football coach at Florida State. He’s up at West Virginia now.’ 

"Bobby Bowden was the original owner of that house. Now how about that? That was 14 months before Bobby Bowden was named the head coach at Florida State University. 

“So there’s a connection there. There’s a connection there between Bobby Bowden and ole’ Gene. And (wife) Ann and (sons) Emerson, Dennis and Eric.”

Tampa Bay Buccaneers hiring Deckerhoff

Deckerhoff has a final wish before his announcing career ends.

“I need one more Super Bowl ring, Tom Brady,” said Deckerhoff, who plans to finish his commitment this upcoming season as play-by-play radio announcer for Tampa Bay games on the Buccaneer Radio Network. “I have three sons. I have two rings. I need one more, Tom. He’s got a lot of pressure.”

For Deckerhoff to start calling games for the Bucs in 1989, he first needed the permission of FSU athletic director Cecil “Hootie” Ingram, Seminole Boosters president Andy Miller and Bowden. All three of them accepted Deckerhoff’s request. 

Bowden’s response caught Deckerhoff’s attention. 

“He said, ‘If you are still going to do our games, then why do you have to ask me? That’s great,’” Deckerhoff said. “I said, ‘Well, coach, we may have to do your TV show at 4 or 5 o’clock in the morning when we get back from away games so I can drive to Tampa or fly to Cincinnati and do the Buccaneers games.’

“Bobby Bowden wasn’t just a great football coach. He was a great human being. Without hesitation, he said, ‘Gene, I think that’s great. You are going to do our games and their games, too, that’s great.’ He said, ‘You just wake me up when those commercials are over, and we will do that TV show any time you want to do it.’

“There’s not another coach in America – and the world, maybe – who would agree to get up and do a TV show at 5 o’clock in the morning for his radio guy to go to an NFL game. So thank you very much, Bobby Bowden, because that enabled me to become the voice of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. 

“And for 33 seasons, I’ve been able to do a Saturday game for the Seminoles and a Sunday game for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.”

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell hugging Deckerhoff 

Derrick Brooks knew Deckerhoff well.

The two-time consensus All-American linebacker for Florida State spent all of his 14 seasons in the NFL with the Bucs. Which means Deckerhoff spent a combined 18 straight seasons calling Brooks’ college and NFL games.

Brooks mentioned this connection at a private reception that commemorated him being inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2014. Deckerhoff said NFL commissioner Roger Goodell and Bucs co-owner Bryan Glazer hugged him after hearing Brooks’ sentiment.

“Derrick said, ‘I want this guy over here to come over here. Gene Deckerhoff, come over here,’” Deckerhoff said. “So I walked up, and he put his arm around me and said, ‘This guy right here broadcast every game that I ever played in my college and pro career. This guy broadcasted every game, and I owe it to him for the great things and calls that he said while I was at Florida State University and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

“How about that? I didn’t have the guts to tell him that we didn’t get the radio rights to the 1993 championship game, and I did not do that game. I’m not going to tell Derrick Brooks on his Hall of Fame day, ‘I didn’t do one game for you, Derrick.’”

Deckerhoff’s untimely bout with laryngitis 

On the night before FSU claimed its second national title in 1999, Deckerhoff supposedly came down with laryngitis. 

“Something about Bourbon Street the night before the game. I don’t know,” Deckerhoff joked.

Deckerhoff mimicked a hoarse voice to show what his vocal limitations sounded like. He said he felt OK enough by kickoff but needed Bowden’s help when recording their pregame show.

“I said, ‘Coach, I can hardly talk. I’m going to ask you four questions, and I need seven minutes. Can you give me long answers?’ And he did,” Deckerhoff said. “I gave Bobby three or four questions, and he gave me seven-and-a-half, eight minutes. We had the pregame show in the bag.”

Reach Carter Karels at or follow him on Twitter @CarterKarels.

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